The government will slash some 49,000 hectares of illegal palm oil plantations in protected forest areas in Rokan Hulu regency, Riau, allowing forests to reclaim cleared land, an official said Wednesday (6/2/08), The Jakarta Post reported.
Rokan Hulu regent Achmad said the oil palms in the protected forest area, in Sungai Mahato and Bukit Sugili, would be destroyed because the plantation was developed without authorization.
"The public has to pay high costs for the illegal conversion of land, with the shrinking of water catchment areas which ends up causing flooding each year in the regency," he said.
"The rampant land conversion has also led to frequent attacks from protected animals, like elephants and Sumatran tigers, on locals and their farmland, after losing their habitat in protected forests," he said.
Achmad said the reforestation program would be financed by the 2008 state budget, and supervised by relevant authorities to avoid financial malfeasance.
He said any farmers refusing to leave the protected area would be prosecuted.